NEW DELHI:The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that High Court judges cannot be exempted from pre-embarkation frisking at airports since matters of security are not matters of prestige or status.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur struck down the Rajasthan High Court order that included judges of High Courts in the list of VIPs who are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks at the airports and said, “Matters of security are not issues of prestige. They are not matters of status and do not depend only on the warrant of precedence.”
The Central government had also told the apex court that the exemption courtesy could be misused and virtually preclude the possibility of any prohibited or dangerous items being introduced on board aircraft through baggage.
The Centre had also contended that the issue as to whether pre-embarkation security exemptions should be granted does not depend only on the warrant of precedence and no exemption can be granted to a dignitary if he or she is not under effective government security coverage on a 24x7 basis. “As far as heads of foreign missions are concerned, they are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks on a reciprocal basis,” the court said while referring to the government’s stand.
The Rajasthan High Court had in 2005 passed a direction in a suo motu matter of a person with a revolver and live cartridges nearly boarding an aircraft.
“What we have said above is to emphasise that the view of the Union government is based on a considered assessment of security perceptions and ought not to have been interfered with in the manner that the High Court did in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 (of the Constitution),” the Supreme Court judgment reads. While expressing its disapproval on the HC direction, Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgment for the Bench said, “Matters of security ought to be determined by authorities of the government vested with the duty and obligation to do so.”
The High Court had taken cognisance of a media report on breach of security at the Jaipur airport and directed amending of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security circular on VIPs/VVIPs exempted from security checks.